Nearly 700 South Carolina Farm Bureau Federation members from across the state gathered in Myrtle Beach Nov. 30-Dec. 2, 2023, to honor grassroots traditions, celebrate the accomplishments of volunteers and to set the organization’s direction for 2024.

The program was highlighted by a number of awards and a State of Farm Bureau address from SCFB President Harry Ott of Calhoun County.

Two legislators were presented the 2024 SCFB Legislator of the Year Awards. Republican Sen. Ross Turner of Greenville and Republican Rep. Patrick Haddon, also of Greenville, were recognized for going above and beyond in their duties to support family farmers in South Carolina through key legislation.

Nearly 700 members from across the state gathered in Myrtle Beach for the 80th Annual Meeting of the South Carolina Farm Bureau Federation

These elected officials have been dependable supporters of Farm Bureau, leading the way for agriculture, agribusiness and family farmers at the Statehouse.

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Three individuals were named as the 2023 Government Relations All-Stars for their progressive advocacy of SCFB’s priority issues in the General Assembly: Jeremy Walther (Aiken), Tracy Woodard (Darlington) and Drake Yon (Saluda). Each received a clock representing the time they dedicated to the work of Farm Bureau.

Joe Frank Pinson (Anderson) received SCFB’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award, as the highlight of the Awards and Recognition Program. Pinson has given greatly to SCFB through his many years of dedication and volunteerism to agriculture in South Carolina.

Joe Frank Pinson (Anderson), left, received SCFB’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award, as the highlight of the Awards and Recognit…

Meghan Barkley (Beaufort) took home an EZ-Go Golf Cart, $500 in STIHL merchandise and $250 cash after winning the SCFB Young Farmers and Ranchers Discussion Meet. Barkley competed against 12 other contestants in a face-to-face discussion about issues confronting today’s farmers.

Each year, one South Carolina educator receives the Betty J. DeWitt Outstanding Educator Award. This year, Heather Reitenga (Richland), a teacher at Leaphart Elementary School in Richland County, received the award, plus $1,000. The award is presented to a teacher of grades K-12 who has designed and implemented a lesson plan about the food and fiber industry.

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The SCFB Youth Ambassador contest took place on Saturday afternoon. Anna Grace Cross (Pickens) and Trey Haddon (Cherokee) will each receive a $2,000 scholarship, plus exposure to state agricultural and government leaders, and leadership training opportunities. They will also make selected appearances on behalf of agriculture and Farm Bureau.

The contestants were prejudged on their application and an essay expressing how their leadership abilities will help in sharing the agriculture story. The three highest-scoring young men and three highest-scoring young women were invited to make a three-minute oral presentation before a panel of judges. The male and female contestants with the best overall scores were named the 2024 SCFB Youth Ambassadors.

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The annual meeting came to a close after the business meeting of the South Carolina Farm Bureau Federation. Harry Ott was re-elected president for a two-year term. Keith Allen (Dillon) was elected to represent the Pee Dee District and Timmy Benton (Colleton) was elected to represent the Coastal District, both for a four-year term.

South Carolina Farm Bureau is a grassroots, non-profit organization that celebrates and supports family farmers, locally grown food and our rural lands through legislative advocacy, education and community outreach. The organization, founded in 1944, serves nearly 90,000 member families in 47 chapters.

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Stephanie Sox is editor of South Carolina Farmer, a magazine publication of the South Carolina Farm Bureau Federation.

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